State budget news keeps getting bleaker. Is the “shot of adrenaline” that Gov. Sam Brownback promised ever going to kick in?
According to new revenue estimates, the state will collect $87.5 million less than expected this fiscal year, which ends June 30. It also is projected to collect $98.2 million less than expected next fiscal year, and $100.8 million less the year after that.
And keep in mind, the previous revenue estimates, completed last November, were significantly lower than earlier estimates.
All total, the state expects to collect about $5.7 billion in taxes and other revenue next fiscal year. That’s $700 million less than it collected in fiscal year 2012, the last year before Brownback’s income tax cuts took effect.
The Legislature plans to partly fill the budget shortfall by making massive transfers of money from the state transportation fund and by reducing payments to the state’s pension system. But even so, the state needs about $400 million in additional revenue or spending cuts to balance next year’s budget and leave a small reserve balance, according to state budget director Shawn Sullivan.
And that doesn’t account for the likelihood that the Kansas Supreme Court will rule again that the school funding level is unconstitutionally low.
Lawmakers likely will consider a variety of possible tax increases, including raising the sales and gasoline taxes. But what apparently is not on the table is reversing the income tax cuts that are the main cause of the revenue drop.
Sullivan said that the Brownback administration remains committed to moving from income taxes to consumption taxes, such as retail sales taxes. This even though sales tax collections this year and each of the next two fiscal years now are expected to be $30 million less than earlier projections.
That means the burden for paying for state government will continue to shift to lower- and middle-income Kansans. And state budget cuts may lead to local property tax increases.
Brownback said his “pro-growth tax policy” would “pave the way to the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs.” But Kansas continues to trail the nation in job growth, and even lost 2,400 nonfarm jobs in March.
Meanwhile, each new revenue estimate brings more bad news.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee